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Schizophrenia: A Hidden Psychosis In Tell Tale Heart

1464 words - 6 pages

Edgar Allan Poe, the creator of one of the most notorious short stories in gothic writing, “Tell-Tale Heart” develops a character that is struggling with schizophrenia and commits a murder. Although there is no concrete reason to why Poe wrote the short story, it is theorized that he wrote it due to the struggles he had in his life, he wanted to reflect the evil inside a human spirit. It is also theorized by Matthey Bynum “The average man tended to suspect deception in defense pleas of insanity, and newspapers often fanned these feelings. Thus by the time Poe wrote 'The Tell-Tale Heart', such trials were major events.” Because of the characters thoughts and actions, many scholars, like Tanfer Tunc, Susan Amper, Matthey Bynum (among others), have analyzed the character and his possible mental illness and case of schizophrenia.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” written in 1843 is a story that is narrated by a crazed man. Initially the character is driven absolutely mad by the presence of the “vulture eye” of an old man that he serves. Strategically planned he decides to kill the man when he realizes he can no longer handle seeing his eye daily. Patiently for 8 nights he watches the old man sleep until he can muster up the courage of actually murdering him. Coincidentally the old man wakes up when the narrator ends up killing him with little struggle. After doing so, he precedes to takes him apart limb by limb, and hides it under the floor of the old man’s chamber. When the police shows up, he casually invites them in, and driven mad by the sound of the dead man’s heartbeat; he confesses his terrible deed to the officers.
Poe starts to develop the character (who is also the narrator) and he immediately allows the narrator to question his sanity to an unknown audience that he is referring to, “but why will you say I am mad?” One of the primary things the readers will see in “Tell-Tale Heart” is that the soliloquy of the narrator is an inner argument, not about his guiltlessness but rather his sanity (Matthey Bynum). Poe, is known for his macabre plots, “In fact, the protagonist seems to thrive on a perverse sense of cruelty, deriving pleasure from observing his victim (the old man) as he sleeps” (Tunc, Cruelty). The narrator suffers from schizophrenia; he then attempts to convince the unknown listeners that his extreme paranoia should not be mistaken by madness (Susan). The narrator constantly contradicts himself, which leads the reader to believe that he is the protagonists and antagonists. Considering that the narrator maintains a nervous tone throughout the story, the narrator preserves his sharpness to wonder around the house and to pretend nothing is wrong. However the narrator says, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever” (Poe).
The character has been very careful with the way he killed the old man, waiting and looking for the right moment to strike with such precision. Gothic literature combines love...

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